The clash of civilizations is a big lie: Moustafa Riad at TEDxCairo

The clash of civilizations is a big lie: Moustafa Riad at TEDxCairo

Translator: Mohamed Al-Alwi
Reviewer: Denise RQ Today I will talk about
the clash of civilizations, a frightening and a very scary title. In general, I don’t tend
to use a strong language, such as “A big lie”, but I have to here. I imagine there could be a chance to have a clash
within the same civilization, more than a chance to have
a clash among different civilizations. It’s very hard to define a civilization. A complex word but its manifestation
can bee seen in many forms that can be seen in our daily lives. At home, in the streets,
in our social life, in the workplace,
or even during our leisure time. But I would like to talk about a specific
aspect that all of us can see clearly: architecture, or the art of architecture. Homes and buildings
that we live in and pass by every day. Buildings that last longer
than their builders. let me start with art of architecture,
from where I was born. I was born in Heliopolis. (Applause) Specifically, the house
on the left: 2, Baghdad Street. I grew up in Heliopolis in one of the houses
known as “the Company” housing. Later on, I knew it was a name
for “Heliopolis company”. And its original name was “Ain Shams Oasis Company”, established by Baron Empain,
early 20th century. I moved to a lot of houses in Heliopolis
during the past 40 to 45 years. I reckon, I saw the white tram,
before joining a school. I also moved within houses
of friends and relatives. Houses that were different
from those built by “the company”, that had decorated iron gates and statues that had new and special decorations. Also I used to go to the city center
and walk around, with my parents, and later on, by myself. Not only that, in holidays I used to visit
my cousin’s house in Al Haraneyah. It was a beautiful house,
painted white and had many dooms. In summer, a cool breeze saved us
from the summer heat. I grew up and chose to study Arts. I was interested in arts and literature. I have learned a lot, for example,
the art of architecture, “The Company” houses were built
following the Mamluki style, the modern Mamluki style. Then, I went to Al-Mu’izz Street
and saw Sultan Hassan Mosque. I was impressed, but I also
understood the beauty of the lines that I used to see as a child. And when I traveled to Europe
I didn’t feel alienated, when I wandered the streets
of Paris, Rome, and Milan, because I saw the same buildings
downtown years ago. Not only that, even
the different houses in Heliopolis I knew that this was called “Art Deco”. When I read Hasan Fathy’s book,
the great architect, “Architecture for the Poor”. I knew that he was the architect who built
my cousin’s house in Al Haraneyah. I knew the genius
of the Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy, who introduced a construction model
that is Eco-friendly and affordable. (Applause) I loved Cairo very much. I felt it was my favorite character
in “One Thousand and One Nights”. Sinbad, who used to move
not only everywhere, but also in time. Around me, I saw
all aspects of a civilization. I found that in Cairo, there are layers of civilizations
on top of each other. The Egyptians innovated
in sequence of eras and returned to their history
and heritage and offered a lot. We have the two statues of Saad Zaghloul: the first is in Cairo
and the second is in Alexandria. The first one is erected on a lotus flower
from the Pharaonic heritage. As for Alexandria Statue, I noticed that the statue was like
moving and forwarding his left foot. This was a tradition
in all great Pharaoh statues. Pharaoh statues that represent
the son of god or gods who always forwarded the left foot. Saad Zaghloul Mausoleum
is in the shape of a Pharaonic temple. Even the recently constructed buildings, we all saw the Cairo tower
is built as an open lotus flower. Finally the constitutional court, without getting into any other details,
is an example of Pharaonic style. We reach the following layer,
which is the Egyptian Coptic Christian. This is the hanging church. At the entrance, we notice
two columns from an earlier era, the Roman era. Inside, we see inscriptions
that might be familiar to all of us. Both Muslims and Christians, but why? because there is an important connection between Islamic and Christian
Arts, “Egyptian Coptic”. When we look at this painting here, we know it’s the creation
of an Egyptian artist. I don’t care if he was
Christian or Muslim. Because he was able to frame one of the beautiful verses of the Gospels, “God is love” at the center
of an Islamic Decoration. And when we approach the entrance
of the Coptic museum, we understand a lot of things about the connection between Coptic Art, and the Islamic art
because it was proceeded by the first. That’s why the first mosques in Egypt had a lot of lines from the Coptic art. Because it was Egyptian Coptic
who built the first mosques, the Greco-Roman heritage. What a better example than
Cairo University to show us this heritage, that was at one time
an important civilization. Roman museum,
the Islamic Era, Bab Al-Futuh, Islamic archeology museum in Bab Al Khalq. Later on, it became
Heliopolis Palace Hotel, the Central Ministry,
and the Union Ministry, Then the presidential palace,
a building full of Islamic style. Misr Station, Bab Al-Hadid, Modern Cairo. But in recent years we heard
the term “clash of civilizations”. One of the most prominent
theorists is Samuel Huntington. In his book “Clash of Civilizations
Remaking of World Order”, Huntington divided the world into civilizations groups,
blue is the western civilization. In the South we have
the Latin and African civilizations; green represents the Islamic civilization. In the Far East, we have the Chinese
and the Japanese civilizations. And in the North,
we have the Orthodox civilization. The Idea itself is a scary one! Because it confirms
that the clash is inevitable, between the Islamic group
and the Western group, if not the whole world. This is an old idea,
Edward W. Said told us about it. The Palestinian American critic,
in his book “Orientalism”, told us how the world
was divided into Eastern and Western. At the beginning of the colonial era,
when the European colonizer went to enslave people and exploit lands, it was important to justifythe reason
to himself and to the world. So they invented the concept
of superior and inferior civilizations. This is why we find
that the colonization poet Rudyard Kipling says in his poetry, “East is East and West is West,
and never the twain shall meet.” The lying started, and we heard terms
such as “La Mission Civilisatrice” or “The White Man’s Burden”
or responsibility, it is a burden for sure because he had to civilize
the less fortunate people. It was a very big lie,
but what is dangerous here, is not telling the lie, but believing it. I think the problem
that we believed this lie. Dr. Taha Hussein,
a great stature in the Arabic Literature, published a book in 1938 titled
“The Future of Culture in Egypt”. It contained great ideas,
but had a shocking introduction. Dr. Taha said, “The Egyptian mind
is a Western mind, not an Oriental one.” And Egypt belongs to the Hellenic-
Greek culture not the Oriental culture. This is surprising. But we can understand it if we knew
that Dr. Taha Hussain chose to move us from the colonized countries
to the more supreme civilization, following this method or route. Here, we find that the idea
of clash or confrontation was originated by the colonialism,
and believing it, is very dangerous. We still believe it when we talk
about the materialistic West, and the spiritual East. We still believe it when we are convinced that the Islamic civilization, was a pure civilization and didn’t mix
with any other civilizations. We still believe it when we forget
that a big portion of European and Western civilizations
were based on the writing of Ibn Rushd, Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, Ibn Khaldun, and other Muslim Scholars, a big issue. There was a time when the Islamic civilization
mixed with others and was affected by them. Its motto was,”To know one another”
from Holy Quran verse, “Made you into nations and tribes,
that you may know one another.” Jerry Brotton is an English critic
from the University of London, had a wonderful set of books
talking about the undivided world, and how it used to be one world
before the 17th century, before the colonial era. Jerry Brotton published
a very important book titled, “The History of the World in 12 Maps”. He introduced the most important
Geography scholar for him, born in Greek and raised
in Egypt, Ptolemy. In his book “Giojravea”
from the 15th century, We find a graphical image of Ptolemy. It suggests he was in Renaissance Italy, but he holds in his hand Astrolabe, which was a navigational geographical
machine invented by Muslim scholars, wearing clothes that had
Islamic inscriptions on them. One world, undivided and overlapping. Back to Edward W. Said, with another book, not very famous like “Orientalism” titled “Culture and Imperialism”. At the beginning of the first chapter,
he tells the complete story. The title of the first chapter is, “Intertwined Histories
and Overlapping Territories”. He introduced a new concept
of hybrid culture as a new concept. This is something we can see
every where,if we go to Spain, after Muslims left in 1492, we find churches such as
The Church of San Román in Toledo, Spain, has Islamic lines in it. The Islamic architecture in India
has some Hindu lines. The Hindu architecture in Goa
has some Portuguese lines. Always the concept of hybrid culture. In Husayn Fawzi’s book, “Egyptian Sinbad”,
one of my favorite books, Husayn Fawzi is one of the pioneers
of the Enlightenment generation. Fawzi talked about
civilization as a traveler, who started his journey from Egypt,
then went to Greece and Rome, then went to Islamic civilizations
in Baghdad, Damascus, and Cairo. After that, crossed the Mediterranean
and went to Europe. And where will be
the next stop? No one knows. And here in Egypt, I wonder
if we could be able to forget the clash of civilizations lie, and instead of division, we provide a new idea
for a new world to the world? Thank you. (Applause)

6 thoughts on “The clash of civilizations is a big lie: Moustafa Riad at TEDxCairo

  1. Not perfect, but you can turn on the captions and change the caption language to English.

    Computing magic.

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